Living WELL: A Force for Good in the Community
Sometimes it takes a profound change in your life to start making a change in others. Co-Founder and President of the Women’s Education and Leadership League (WELL) Alana Scott knows this all too well.
“My life changed when I decided to believe that we have the freedom to turn our challenges and suffering into an opportunity to serve others and change lives,” said Scott. “When I was 15 years old, my life took a dramatic detour due to the untimely loss of my mom.
“I unintentionally spent the next 15 years of my life following her loss feeling as though I was at a disadvantage by not having the support and love my mom always provided. I still pursued career goals, personal goals, and loved volunteering and giving back to the community, but I always felt as though something was missing. Throughout this time frame, I thought the obvious ‘thing’ I was missing was my mom.”
It was 2012 when Alana knew she no longer wanted to feel this way. She reframed her perspective and realized then that the “thing” she’d been missing was the opportunity to continue to carry out the legacy of love her mother, Patty, had left behind.
“The women at WELL are confident, enthusiastic, and industrious, which has helped give me a resurgence of the same as well piqued my curiosity and creativity.”
••• FELICIA RUBIANES, WELL ATTENDEE
“My mom always performed incredible selfless acts of kindness for others while seeking no recognition,” said Scott. “She specifically made efforts to improve the lives of our most vulnerable community members, those with special needs, foster youth, and the underserved.”
Scott decided to sit down and write down what carrying out her mother’s legacy would look like and how she could best accomplish her mission and keep Patty’s spirit alive. Each time she sat down and built on the ideas and concepts for “Operation: Spread Patty’s Love,” she felt drawn to the idea of starting a nonprofit that helps disadvantaged women.
“In 2014, everything fell into place as if it was meant to be,” said Scott. “I happened to get connected to a woman who truly had nowhere else to turn. She was going through a tumultuous experience. I was able to rally all of my professional contacts to ask for the biggest favor in my career, to help her pro bono and pay it forward and today she is thriving and enjoying life.”
This was the moment to step up and officially turn her dream into an organization.
But she wasn’t alone. Victoria Popoff has been an invaluable board member and pioneer for WELL from day one. She has donated her time, talent, and connections to get WELL on the map. Popoff has set up many of WELL’s social media campaigns to help get their education out to those who need it most and she has recently donated her new business space as a shared home for the WELL. Without Popoff, WELL would still just be a dream, struggling to get off the ground.
Madden Roberts, another integral member of WELL, met Scott at a High Tea of Hope event several years ago. Roberts immediately came up to Scott and shared her dream of empowering women by creating a nonprofit with a similar mission and offered to help. Roberts used her voice and well-respected reputation to help WELL launch and grow—and has even been named the “Voice of WELL.”
Madden and Victoria secured a collaboration with the Stanislaus County Fair’s EmpowHER Lounge, where the WELL Leadership team shares an inspiring message with the young women attending the lounge each night of the Fair. As a result, the Stanislaus County Fair and WELL were both recipients of international fair program awards.
Now, Alana teaches financial literacy and provides invaluable financial education to women in our community. The WELL provides free financial, emotional, and physical workshops, seminars, collaborative cohorts, and mentoring to women.
One of the nonprofit collaborations, Alana is most proud of is with Sierra Vista’s First Step Program. The women who go through this program are recovering from addiction and striving to rebuild the relationships with their children and get back on their feet financially. WELL was invited to bring one of their cohorts to this program two-three times a year, that is centered around WELL’s mission of empowering women with life changing financial literacy and emotional and physical wellness education.
The women who are a part of this cohort, benefit from it greatly. Several have become active members of WELL and have improved their financial and emotional wellness dramatically. Here is what a few of them had to say:
••• “I feel I benefited a lot from WELL. Learning the difference between emotional, physical, and financial wellness changed my life. My favorite exercise was connecting my heart with my mind and learning how to apply this technique in my life. I know I can conquer my challenges and pursue my dreams thanks to WELL.”
••• “I really appreciate WELL for teaching us how to manage our finances and emotional and physical wellness. They were very encouraging. I now have the tools to break free and fulfill my dreams. Thank you WELL.”
“One of the experiences I find most exciting comes in the aftermath of providing mentoring and education to the women we serve at WELL,” said Scott. “I know we have done a collective and effective job when a woman we help get on her feet, ends up sharing her talents and newfound knowledge to help someone else by paying it forward. I can’t think of a more rewarding experience.”
One of those women, Felicia Rubianes, attended because she liked the idea. Although she’d been to several other women’s meetings and organizations, she felt like WELL would be different and appreciated the range of topics aimed at assisting women in both enriching their lives and feeling more empowered. Rubianes attended a WELL Wednesday, where WELL invites an inspiring community leader to share their story of overcoming adversity and pursuing their dreams. WELL Wednesdays are held from 5 to 7 p.m. on the fi rst Wednesday of each month at Skewers in Modesto.
“The speaker that spoke of challenging yourself to go back to school had an inspiring testimony of her journey,” said Rubianes. “She is a single mom who was consistently working full time as went back to school later in life and completed a bachelor’s degree then a masters degree, and has inspired and supported her two daughters to succeed in college. She worked diligently, persevered and has been a leader at many organizations. C. DeSha McLeod, MBA, CHPCA is currently President/CEO of Community Hospice.”
Rubianes feels very positively-affected by WELL, as she has continued to meet and make connections with sincere, encouraging women who are eager to share their successes and failures as well as support other women with their knowledge, education, and experience.
“The women at WELL are confident, enthusiastic and industrious,” said Rubianes, “which has helped give me a resurgence of the same as well piqued my curiosity and creativity.”
Domenica Escatel was another woman looking for a supportive group that helped women in the community.
“I was asked to say some inspirational words on the topic bravery and at a meeting where I meet Alana,” said Escatel. “It was at that meeting that she shared her vision for a nonprofit. So, once the vision came to life, I jumped on board.”
“Being one of the 20 under 40 recipients in 2016, I had the loudest cheering section thanks to the wonderful women from WELL,” said Escatel. “These women who I hadn’t known that long came to cheer me on. The ladies of WELL really were an amazing support system. With their endless encouragement, letters, and messages of support, they proved to be the real deal.”
WELL makes it a point to help as many women as possible in enrich their financial, emotional and physical wellness—which is the impetus behind so many of their community-focused collaborations. That’s how they ended up collaborating with El Concilio on the Latina Entrepreneur Symposium—a free, three-day event that ran from Oct. 11 to 13.
“A few months back, El Concilio reached out to me and asked if WELL would like to collaborate on a grant opportunity from LULAC and Coca-Cola Foundation to provide a three day comprehensive Latina Entrepreneurship Symposium, of course we said ‘yes!’” said Scott. This unique three-day professional development event brought together Latina and other women entrepreneurs to learn about best practices and participate in interactive business planning, development, and management activities that will serve the needs of the variety of stakeholders in expanding and strengthening their independent businesses and start-up companies. Topics included business planning, social media marketing, goal setting, entrepreneurship, and financial confidence. Among the 25 speakers and presenters were Ann Endsley, President and CEO of Greens Market, Underground Kitchen, and Four Seasons Farms; Virginia Madueno, President of the PR firm IMAGEN; as well as Scott, Roberts and Popoff.
On Oct. 11, over 100 aspiring entrepreneurs and entrepreneur hopefuls showed up for a very full couple of days to learn everything from how to create a business plan and navigating the legal aspects of entrepreneurship to social media marketing tips and strategies.
Of the many women who attended, Vivian Elithorp heard about the Latina Entrepreneur Symposium from one of her business partners. As a Latina starting her own financial service business, she decided to go to better understand how fellow businesswomen started their businesses and kept them prosperous.
“My goal is to surround myself with successful women and learn from them,” said Elithorp. “I also want to know what they are doing to help the community. I want to be able to learn to speak in front of people and work on my confidence.”
Elithorp was floored by the kind and welcoming atmosphere where both tears and laughter were shared. Women felt comfortable enough to share their personal vision, explain the negativity entrenched in the workforce, and how they achieved success in spite of it all.
“It makes you feel like you’re not the only one facing crazy adversity,” said Elithorp. “Most definitely I would recommend the Symposium to everyone. I learned so much. I am already implementing the business plan and financial literacy information.”
WELL was born of the belief that we all have the opportunity to leave the world better than when we arrived in it. Scott especially believes that it is our responsibility to serve by sharing our talents, resources, and gifts charitably to improve the world in some small or big way. All of us have different talents, dreams, and skills. If each person were to focus on contributing their passion to a shared mission with positive intentions, incredible things would happen.
“One of my greatest strengths is founded in the caliber of my peer group,” said Scott. “I aim to surround myself with individuals who challenge me to give, grow and become the best contributor to society I can be.”
For more information about WELL, how to join, and future events, visit www.well4women.org.